After producing Animal House in 1978 — an experience that only reinforced his desire to direct — 31-year-old Ivan Reitman gave himself a five-month window to conceive and shoot his own movie. He started with a simple premise — a crazy summer camp — but not much else in terms of Hollywood support or financing. (The budget was less than a million dollars.) But he thought he had an ace in the hole in Bill Murray, the then-27-year-old who was just emerging as one of the new faces on Saturday Night Live. If only he could persuade the contrarian comic, who he knew from The National Lampoon show in New York, to show up to the rustic camp in Ontario where the cast and crew were filming in August 1978. Even then, Murray was difficult to pin down. “It’s not like he was a big star or anything,” says Reitman. “But he’s always kind of been iconoclastically difficult about agreeing to be in things. And also hard to reach. But I refused to take no for an answer and … he showed up on set on the second day of shooting.”
It’s a beautiful thing he did. Though Meatballs isn’t a perfect film, it’s pure mainlined Murray, establishing the smirking, irreverent persona that would run wild in other Reitman collaborations, like Stripes and Ghostbusters. With Meatballs arriving today on Blu-ray and On Demand for the first time, Reitman talked to EW about the little film that launched him and his hilarious star to Hollywood stardom, and how he still holds out hope for another Ghostbusters film — with Murray.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Summer-camp movies are practically a sub-genre unto themselves now, but I don’t recall a lot of them before Meatballs. Was it something new, or had there been older camp movie you had absorbed?
IVAN REITMAN: There were a couple of camp films that were suddenly all starting about the same time. I think there was a movie called Little Darlings, and I vaguely remember Norman Lear writing some camp film that didn’t get made that was planned about that time. For me this was an antidote to my not being allowed to direct Animal House. I had worked on it three years, brought Belushi into it, and ended up producing the film, but my original intention was always to direct it. But because I had really only directed this small $12,000 improvised comedy called Cannibal Girls, the studio wouldn’t let me do it, and so we hired John Landis who did a great job. But I really wanted to direct, and literally, as soon as our cut was done on Animal House, I called a couple of friends up, Len Blum and Dan Goldberg, who all gone to camp at various places — sometimes together — in Ontario, Canada. I said, “Let’s see if we can put this summer-camp movie together.” READ FULL STORY